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4 Branding Secrets from Eminem

In 1996 we were a world in transition. From Osama Bin Laden being expelled from Sudan, Mad Cow Disease outbreak in Britain and turbulent economic times in the US, our news was flooded with woes. But quietly that summer, an obscure underground rapper whose flow nearly defied his ethnic background hit the mainstream and nearly 19 years later we are still mystified.

Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known by his rap moniker Eminem, has amassed both a fortune and legendary status as one of the greatest. What is even more amazing is none of his success was an accident. From a distance, it seems as though he stumbled upon greatness but further investigation proves he was calculating building a brand that would live longer than a one hit wonder.

When we think of branding, we often visualize pristine offices filled with brilliant people, big boards and late evening mastermind sessions. But that only happens on television shows like Mad Men.

In the real world, brands are built at the consumer level. In fact, a brand by definition is the expectation that has developed based on perception and the fulfillment of consumer need.

And you never build a brand on what you promise will happen. It is after a transaction has been completed and an opinion has been assessed that your brand is measured. We rise and fail based on the perceived quality of our personal and professional branding. Miss this and you’ve missed the boat!

Over the years many have formed opinions of Mathers. Protestors have tried to block his concerts, politicians have launched public attacks on his lyrics and even his mother has filed lawsuits against him. But somehow he just kept moving forward.

Eminem is the best-selling artist of the 2000’s in the US; Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 83rd on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, calling him the King of Hip-Hop. Including his work with groups like D12, also from Detroit and Bad Meets Evil, Eminem has had ten number-one albums on the Billboard 200. He has sold more than 172 million albums, making him one of the world’s best-selling artist.

As of mid-2014, Eminem is the second-bestselling male artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, the sixth-bestselling artist in the United States and the bestselling hip-hop artist, with sales of 45.1 million albums and 42 million tracks (including 31 million digital single certifications). This plus his many successful business ventures makes it evident he’s not a novice at building a sustainable brand.

Let’s take a look at (4) branding hacks he’s perfected:

(1) Own your truth, even if no one else agrees:

From his early days to now, Em has always been categorized as “different.” His views on women, politics and even race relations made him a volatile guest on any program. Eminem attracted more attention when he developed Slim Shady, a sadistic, violent alter ego. The character, “a drug-dealing, bloodthirsty thug who spits furious rhymes about murder, rape, drugs and living by the law of the urban jungle,” allowed him to express his anger. While people criticized him, he stuck to his truth and remained authentic. Whether you agree or not, it is his experience and he was determined to make it known.

(2) Be bold and unapologetic:

In Em’s autobiography, The Way I Am which was published late 2008 he opened up about several struggles. What was interesting is throughout the entire work, he never once apologized for his journey. . Detailing his struggles with poverty, drugs, fame, heartbreak and depression, it includes stories of his rise to fame, commentary about past controversies and original lyric sheets from “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady. When you are building a brand you are going to be inundated with advice. Your job is to define your path and stick with it. That takes tremendous boldness. Like Mathers, you may endure a time when you walk alone. Even his mother Debbie wrote a tell-all book and spent time in the media bashing his methods. But sticking to his truth has proven to be the “golden ticket” for Eminem.

(3) Build strategic partnerships:

Almost from day one when he connected with West Coast legend Dr. Dre and signed with his Aftermath label, Shady has been making the right moves with the right people. Hit after hit has flowed because relationships matter. If your brand will stand the test of time, it will take you putting ego aside and seeking others to solidify where you may be weak. Mathers has said, “To me the greatest gift I can give my artistry is the gift of diversity.” Imagine the power your brand can garner when you are collaborating with people who challenge and provoke you to reach your greatest potential.

(4) Never hide your mishaps:

Em is no stranger to controversy or public scorn. He’s been divorced twice. His mother has sued him multiple times. He’s attempted suicide after bouts with depression and a laundry list of legal battles have followed him throughout his career. With all of this, he has never shied away from the obvious. What he’s done is use those mishaps as a platform to further his brand. I believe being transparent about yourself and your brand helps identify a cult like following of people who already know the truth about you; but they decide to follow you and lend their loyalty.

Like him or not Marshall has created a branding empire. While droves have come and gone, he remains atop the game and from the looks of things, will only walk away on his terms.

Imagine the influence you and I can achieve if we glean just a few of his branding tips. Let’s get pass his rap persona and appreciate the man behind the machine. An inner city youth from Detroit with all the odds against him. Someone who has a reputation for being one of the hardest working individuals in the industry. To me, that alone is worth a second look at this obscure rapper who has literally changed the game.

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